Himachal cabinet to have old, new faces

Shimla, Dec 25 (IANS) The new Himachal Pradesh cabinet, to be headed by new and ‘young’ Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, will be a blend of old and new faces.

An indication in this regard was given by Thakur himself.

“The cabinet will have both experienced and new faces,” he told reporters here in his first official interaction with reporters a day after being elected as the BJP Legislature Party leader in the Assembly.

Thakur said that his top priorities would be restoring law and order situation, to do away with the VIP culture, to review all decisions of the previous Congress government in past three months, to minimise wasteful expenditure and to develop tourism infrastructure.

Five-time legislator Thakur, who rose through the ranks and is known for his humble, clean and low-profile nature, will be sworn-in as Chief Minister at the Ridge here on December 27 in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah.

The Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states will also attend the swearing-in ceremony. Almost 10 of them have confirmed their presence.

However, Thakur, a confidant of Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda and associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, refused to comment on the size of the cabinet and to reveal the names of his cabinet colleagues.

He also refused to comment whether his cabinet colleagues will also take oath with him.

The new ministers in his 11-member cabinet likely are former Cabinet ministers Rajeev Bindal, Kishan Kapoor, Sarveen Chaudhary, Mohinder Singh, Congress rebel Anil Sharma, Narinder Bragta and Ramesh Dhawala and new faces could comprise Gobind Thakur, Vikram Jaryal, Rakesh Pathania and Rajeev Sahjal.

Sarveen Chaudhary, if inducted, will be the lone woman minister in the cabinet.

Thakur, at 52 the youngest to head the government, belongs to the Rajput community with a significant presence in the hill state.

He won his fifth consecutive assembly election from Seraj, earlier known as Chachiot in Mandi district, defeating Chet Ram of the Congress.

He will be the first Chief Minister from Mandi, the second biggest district of Himachal after Kangra. In these elections, the BJP won nine out of the 10 assembly seats in Mandi.

Earlier Chief Ministers of Himachal hailed from Shimla, Kangra and Sirmaur districts.

Thakur was a Cabinet minister in the BJP government led by P.K. Dhumal from 2007 to 2012.

Doing his graduation from a Mandi college, he went to Panjab University in Chandigarh for his post-graduation. Thakur is married to Sadhna Singh, a doctor by profession.

The BJP wrested power in Himachal Pradesh from the Congress, winning close to a two thirds majority with 44 seats in the 68-member Assembly. The Congress won 21 seats, independents two and the Communist Party of India-Marxist one.

Thakur emerged as a front runner after Dhumal and state party chief Satpal Satti were defeated in the November 9 elections. The poll results were declared on December 18.